Travel nurse Bob Goldnetz switched from world traveler to taking assignments close to home. In this article, he compares local travel nursing to life on the road.
Once I became a traveler, it didn’t take long to realize I could never go back to staff. Now that I’m a new papa, some of my perspective has changed, but for the most part it hasn’t altered my mindset. While I haven’t been able to put in the miles of my previous travel nursing life, taking local travel gigs has continued to afford me the many benefits of the travel nurse lifestyle.
1. The money
First off, no surprise, the financial incentive. As a new traveler several years ago, I was shocked when I got my first paycheck and realized I was netting more than double my previous staff job wages. More than double, for the same job!
Now, it is no secret that travel nursing pays better, but actually seeing it made it real. I never traveled for the money — I would have done it if they paid me less. But over the last several years, this allowed me to take an average of three to six months off to travel and still make what I made as a staff nurse.
Now before the naysayers have their say it is important to note there are extra expenses with traveling, the biggest being duplicating expenses. As a local traveler, it was the first time I had been anywhere long enough to meet the 365 rule. As such I became a “fully taxed” traveler and did not collect the non-taxable compensation such as travel housing, per diem, and travel reimbursement. Simply stated, working close to home you get taxed more, but on the other hand you are not duplicating expenses. With COVID rates for travel nurses in unprecedented territory in 2021, even being fully taxed I was able to save much more than I would have as a staff nurse.
At the end of the day, maybe you have other goals — maybe it’s all about working as much as possible to save up for school, pay off debt, or plan that wedding.
2. The flexibility
So, the money is still good, but many of the other amazing benefits of travel nursing also continue to play a key part. One that has always been among most important to me is flexibility.
For me travel nursing was always about freedom. As I stated before, I could easily take off months at a time and travel the world. More recently I was able to take a month off for the birth of my little man. It is true I was not paid during that time — I was fortunate to be in the middle of an extension so I kept my healthcare coverage — but I do not know many men who got to take a month off to help out their partner and be around so much for their little one.
So whether it is approved time off during your contract for a week of vacation, or spontaneous months off for whatever, the flexibility is unmatched.
3. The lack of politics
Another great aspect of traveling is the lack of drama or politics. In any work environment, you sometimes run into unreasonable or clique staff; this is true everywhere, in any job. I have been lucky enough in my travels to have no aggressive staff stories.
For the most part I have always started an assignment with my head down and come in as a blank slate. Once I get to know people, I will let my personality and opinions out. Every now and then I am perplexed as I see travelers who seem to go out of their way to not get along with staff. At the end of the day, I am there to do a job to benefit my life. I clock in to do my job to the best of my ability while I am there, then clock out and try to leave it all at the door. I have always enjoyed the decreased drama of a traveler. Usually by the time any politics or drama comes up it’s about time to hit the road.
4. Making deeper friendships
On to some of the pros I have found of being a local traveler and being around the area a bit longer. Contrary to what I recently stated about being a blank slate, I have many friendships I made over the years — both staff and travelers alike. There is something to be said for moving your life across the country, being in a new place, and finding some people to build a temporary life around.
As a local traveler, I have been able to extend these relationships. I have enjoyed getting to know people a little better and seeing them with more consistency. While traveling abroad — or traveling anywhere for an amount of time — you hit a point where you get in a roll of the same conversation: Where are you from? Where have you been? Where are you going? You may be in a spot for a night abroad or on a three-month assignment, so after a while it’s hard to retain the drive to meet people and form a connection on a moment’s notice.
Like some seasonal jobs, travel nursing for three-month increments can feel the same. You meet people, but you know you’re leaving, and they know you are leaving. The staff have seen HUNDREDS of people come and go, so why should they take the time? As a traveler you will meet people you vibe with but if there wasn’t a connection when you leave you may feel, ‘what’s the point?’ This exciting lifestyle can become routine, which is part of the reason why most travelers average about three years of travel nursing before wanting a change. So while I have gone to the wedding of someone I knew a month, and been on week-long backpacking trips with people I knew a day, it’s nice to see people and build some relationships, and still feel out of the politics.
5. Still being a traveler
At the moment, I have the best of both worlds. I feel accepted and liked by staff, but I can still play the ‘I am a traveler too’ card. I can help new travelers who feel overwhelmed or lost in the fray, since they have the same questions I did when I started and I can be a resource to them.
Also, depending on the environment, there is still the opportunity to learn by floating to different ICUs/ floors, seeing a different patient population, etc. If you are at one location a little longer, the staff will be more willing to train you on equipment or protocols you would not normally be privy to.
6. Professional growth
Another perk is the opportunity for personal growth I get by taking opportunities that were more difficult when I was picking my life up and moving consistently.
Picking up a side gig is something else you might be interested in. I’m sure you have a good overtime rate, but it’s nice to get out of the hospital. Most of us don’t work to live — many travel solely for the money, but it’s nice to delve into some other professional activities too. In the past I have utilized my nursing skills to work at IV therapy clinics. I did this in Denver and loved it. I met a lot of people in the mobile IV RV at Spartan races and helping people at the clinic. It was kush, fun, and low stress. If you aren’t looking in the medical field for supplemental income there are hundreds of other things you could do: teaching, coaching, volunteering — there is a side gig for everything.
7. Personal growth
Hobby growth is another thing I have been craving. In high school, I took some woodworking classes, and because I had no artistic or music ability I found this to be an interesting creative outlet. I will also admit it made me feel pretty manly! But it’s difficult to do woodworking projects when it takes a mini shop’s worth of tools and storage.
I found this true for many things. Say you like rock climbing and get involved at the local gym. I knew a guy who got into coaching at the local gym and loved it. He also got to climb for free and got involved with setting routes, something he had never done before. The same thing could be said for someone who loves volleyball or soccer, maybe you have always wanted to coach, or maybe you want to play in a league. I enjoyed an extended stay in Salt Lake City and was fortunate to be on soccer, kickball, and spike ball teams. Along with coaching, maybe you want to teach. You’re a yogi, you found a routine, instructor, and classes you like — maybe you are ready for teacher training. Really just about any interest that takes time: painting, pottery, sailing. I hope one day to start my pilot’s training. Of course, you could travel with your easels and paints, but for someone new getting involved or someone serious on a passion, a home base and consistency is key.
8. Being home more often
And then there are the sentimental reasons. Unfortunately, life isn’t always smiles and rainbows. Maybe you or your family have some healthcare needs or illnesses that need to be attended to. And at the end of the day, what is life without family and friends? We all miss holidays, birthdays, and celebrations. As a local, it’s nice to know you will be around. It’s easier to make plans when you know where you will be based. I have never been a planner, but it has been nice knowing I will be around and be able to have people come visit.
Although I miss the traveling and love road trips, I enjoyed not driving through Kansas this year. In addition, while I have had to unpack and repack the car with baby stuff, not having to repack my life (and endlessly browse the web for housing) has been a bit of a relief. And at the end of the day, I was a gear guy, not a stuff guy — for a while my bike was worth more than my car! I have to say it’s been refreshing to have a nice blender, pots, pans, knives, a more regimented diet, bulk foods, tools, and books.